ABC Primetime Fare with Ads to Web

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In a bold move to expand its push onto new-media platforms, in a two-month-long experiment, The Walt Disney Co. will offer ad-supported episodes of four ABC primetime hitsonline on the broadcast network’s Web site (abc.go.com), officials said Monday.

The Disney-ABC Television Group will make available free-of-charge full-length current episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives and Commander in Chief, as well as the entire present season of Alias, for streaming during May and June, marking the first time a broadcast network has made multiple series available for viewing online.

Disney also said it is debuting “Soapnetic,” a gated broadband channel that is an extension of its SOAPnet, April 17. It will be accessible at launch to Verizon Online consumer broadband customers and sold through the Disney and ESPN Networks affiliate-sales and marketing group. The service will offer coverage of nine soaps and have classic and original programming.

“The evolution of ABC.com is just one piece of our comprehensive digital-media multiplatform business initiative," said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television.

“This announcement highlights the momentum we’ve achieved both in launching new broadband services and working with strategic partners in the digital-media space to ensure that our high-quality, informative and entertaining content is available to consumers whenever and wherever they choose,” she added.

As part of its trial, ABC offered 10 advertisers the opportunity to test possible in-stream broadband-advertising models, as well as the ability to take advantage of sponsorships. The unique interactive-video ads will take many different forms and will be seen within each episode. Participating advertisers include AT&T Inc., Cingular Wireless, Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble Co., Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., Unilever NV’s “Suave,” Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures.

“We have said all along that we are dedicated to finding ways to bring our advertiser partners along with us as we embrace new ways of doing business in the world of digital media,” said Mike Shaw, ABC Television Network’s president of sales and marketing.

“This unique project has allowed us to offer our advertisers the ability to deliver increased effectiveness in their messaging through targeted and engaging interactive ads that offer compelling consumer experiences,” he added.

ABC is also exploring ways to work with its local broadcast affiliates on these online offerings as they continue to evolve.

“Our ultimate goal is to find an effective online model, one in which our affiliates can take part,” said Alex Wallau, president of operations and administration at ABC. “To that end, we’ll be sharing information from this two-month test in our discussions going forward and working on ways for them to participate in this new method of delivering ABC programming.”

“Our mission with this trial is to gather key learning about the technology and the consumers who utilize it in order for ABC.com to become the leading broadband-digital-entertainment experience, packed with innovative, immersive content for our viewers,” said Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for Disney-ABC Television.

“In the months ahead, ABC.com will not only deliver a high-quality on-demand viewing experience to users, but it will also gain valuable knowledge and research to help us better understand and serve our consumers in the rapidly evolving digital world,” Cheng added.

Previously, Disney-ABC Television announced that full episodes of popular original series from Disney Channel and Jetix will be available for viewing online starting later this spring.

Kids will be able to log on to DisneyChannel.com (www.disney.go.com/disneychannel/index.htm) and Jetix.tv (tv.disney.go.com/jetix/index.html) and stream full-length episodes of hit series That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Kim Possible, Power Rangers and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, among others, free and on-demand.

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